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Major training barriers prevent HCA career progression

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Ambitious healthcare assistants are hampered by haphazard training and development across the country, a report shows.

Around half of HCAs surveyed started their jobs aspiring to be nurses but faced “major institutional and personal barriers” in doing this.

Despite those barriers, the report reveals the tenacity of their ambition. It says: “It was only when HCAs had been in post for 10 or more years that this ‘dream’ began to wane significantly.

“There is some poignancy in this picture: deeply embedded nurse ambitions are only uprooted after perhaps many years of disappointment.”

Personal factors standing in the way of progressing to a nursing role included HCAs’ age. A third were 50 or over.

HCAs were more likely to have childcare commitments than nurses and a third of them were the sole or main income earner in their household.

Unison told Nursing Times part of the problem is that bespoke training provided at one trust is often not recognised elsewhere.

The Oxford research, funded through the Department of Health’s National Institute for Health Research service delivery and organisation programme, showed wide differences between hospitals in how many of their HCAs had got their NVQ at the trust.

A manager interviewed at a hospital where only 37 per cent of HCAs had gained their NVQ level 3 at the trust told researchers: “I think our trust realised ‘well if we don’t do anything about it, nobody’s going to bother to chase this up, so let’s ignore this one.’

“So our solution is very different, it’s ‘let’s write our own [staff training programme] which are much more accessible for staff’.”

By contrast, a London hospital had seen 69 per cent of its HCAs with an NVQ 3 gain it at the organisation.

Unison and the Royal College of Nursing support a fully regulated HCA workforce which would include nationally recognised qualifications.

But a coauthor of the report told Nursing Times he was not optimistic given the financial constraints trusts would be operating under.
Paul Heron said trusts were saying they were committed to training their HCAs but he was pessimistic about how that would “pan out” over the coming years.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • when i applied for a job as an hca i was told i would be encouraged to do my nvq 4 years down the line i am still waiting to start it! I am afraid they are just interested in me doing the work nurses would have done in the past and for a fraction of the price. Remember a gp surgery is run as a business.

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  • I am a newly employed and ambitious HCA, I've a level 2 qualification in counselling and currently studying for level 3 qualification. I'm also about to start a level 2 qualification in substance abuse.
    I'm already finding it difficult to see any career progression or opportunities after completing the coarses.
    Any advise?

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